Final Fantasy XIV is an Eden for lorehounds like myself. Square Enix’s massively popular MMORPG has so many stories, tales, and chronicles stuffed into every crevice that it practically leaks at the seams. That’s why it pays to be the ratty little kid who toddles around, getting their hands on everything in sight while the FFXIV team regales the world with FFXIV‘s main story. It’s a great idea to poke every NPC and touch things that aren’t yours. Heck, you’ll find some of the game’s best side stories only if you indulge a moogle who weasels you into doing his mail route.
FFXIV even delivers snippets of its realm’s curious history through songs. It’s very easy to miss out on those stories: The music (and any accompanying lyrics) for dungeons and boss fights tends to get drowned out by the din of magic casting, the roar of monsters, and the clank-clank-clank of a Ninja catboy (not mine) screwing up their mudra hand gestures yet again. But if you take the time to dig under the screaming and shouting, you’ll discover these songs are stuffed with FFXIV lore — all of which takes us on tiny journeys to rough, mysterious lands far outside the gameplay space. In other words, the best kind of FFXIV lore is found in song lyrics.
The Sigh of the Shifting Sea
“Equilibrium” is a Heavensward boss theme by the game’s long-time composer, Masayoshi Soken. You may even miss the optional trial boss fight where the song plays (Containment Bay P1T6), so you’ll have to seek out the Warring Triad questline. Keep your ears sharp and you’ll hear it when you battle Sophia the Goddess in the ironically godforsaken bio-mechanical wasteland of Azys Lla.
The song’s lyrics were penned by localization director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox. Fox actually writes most of the lyrics that accompany FFXIV boss fights, including the delicious word soup that makes up the backbeat of “Locus.” But we’ll talk about our gobbiefriends’ janglenoise some other time.
For now, fall into Equilibrium. Frankly, it’s hard to resist the pull. The song opens up with the soft, repeated chant of “Cintamani,” which is the name of a powerful jewel referenced in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Sophia notably uses a resplendent jewel to summon the scales of judgment that reveal her reason for being: She’s a goddess of pure, primal balance. She is utter neutrality — and Equilibrium narrates how this sterile, calculating being sent a desperate family to its terrible end.
Equilibrium’s “story” takes place on Meracydia, a mysterious continent somewhere in the southern region of planet Hydaelyn. FFXIV hasn’t yet put our boots on Meracydia’s soil, but scattered references from raids, NPC chatter, and extended lore (Equilibrium’s lyrics being a perfect example) speak of a rich realm shattered hundreds of years ago during the Third Astral Era by the freakishly advanced Allagan Empire. The Meracydians fought against the Allagan invasion, but were ultimately steamrolled — including the father of Equilibrium’s protagonist.
Losing a parent in combat is devastating, but the protagonist of the story told through this song has another terrible problem: Her mother, driven mad by the loss of her husband, becomes abusive. Unable to endure the shrieking and the beatings, our protagonist lets slip a desperate prayer. Sophia, the worst option, answers her.
The White of Her Silken Dress, Stained in Red
Another thing we know about Meracydia is the pantheon of the local races: Sephirot the Fiend, Zurvan the Demon, and Sophia the Goddess. If something instinctually feels off to you about this trio, it’s probably because you watched these three deities literally shatter the world of Final Fantasy VI way back in 1994. Yes, Meracydia prays to the Warring Triad, which is probably the worst possible idea in the universe. They’re a testy, literal group, as our poor protagonist soon discovers the hard way.
The heartsick girl receives an answer to her prayers, yes, but Sophia is not a goddess of love, justice, or mercy. She’s the cold, featureless face of neutrality, and her existence revolves around maintaining life’s balance. I admit I find a certain thrill in parlaying with such an unpredictable goddess; for all I know, her plan for balance involves drowning me in riches and willing catboys. Unfortunately for our protagonist, Sophia’s prescription is “Kill your mother, then kill yourself.”
A heartbeat without harmony
Is moonlight without dark
The heart seeketh equilibrium
With balance will your worry part.
So still this broken melody
And therewith shoulder thee
One last step only leaving
An empty hearth down by the sea
An empty hearth down by the sea.
The official FFXIV blog lists Equilibrium’s full lyrics and digs a bit deeper into them. It confirms the death of our protagonist’s father shattered her family’s own equilibrium beyond repair. Why suffer, then? Why not burn this “tainted” chain of fortune at the root? Cut to our protagonist standing poetically on the edge of a sea cliff, clutching a knife stained with her mother’s blood. Then she takes a one-way trip into the Meracydian ocean. Balance restored. A life for a life and all that. Somewhere, Thanos stands and thunderously applauds.
An Empty Hearth Down by the Sea
For my money, FFXIV tells some of the best stories in a series often celebrated for its lore. Maybe part of the appeal is searching for those little fruitful bits that are so easily overlooked. Moreover, Square Enix isn’t always the master of subtle storytelling in most of its games, which makes FFXIV‘s lore-hunts all the more compelling.
If you initially missed the meaning behind Equilibrium’s lyrics, don’t beat yourself up. Sophia is a tough fight even when you’re not trying to parse what vocalist Ayumi Murata is saying. Retry the fight and turn up the volume. Or just Google “that ffxiv sophia song with the chanting” and interact with some community discussions about the lyrics, as well as how they sketch a rough but vivid picture of Meracydia. Will the Warrior of Light ever visit this war-blasted continent? We don’t know. Not yet. But tidbits like Equilibrium remind us there’s still reams of uncharted territory in Final Fantasy XIV, even after the upcoming Endwalker expansion supposedly closes the storyline started with the game’s original launch.
Who knows where we’ll wind up in a year, two years? In the meantime, enjoy Endwalker and remember: A god who regularly answers prayers is not necessarily a boon.